Zayasaikhan Sambuu, who later became known as Zaya, was born in 1975, in a small and isolated town with only about one hundred households in Gobi, Western Mongolia.
It is during his teenage years that the oppression and censorship of communism started to fade away, which enabled the reemergence of forgotten nomadic culture and heritage as well as the freedom of religion.
Growing nationalism and religious freedom allowed many people to practice Buddhism and as a teenager who was skilled in drawing and was greatly encouraged by the elders to depict portraits of Buddhist Gods in order to recover their religious customs and values.
That had been forbidden by the communist regime for more than a decade.
For this reason, Zaya was first introduced to art through Buddhism. Indeed, Buddhism had especially influenced him and at the age of 15 he decided to become a monk.
However, after studying Tibetan religious texts for two years, he realized that he had a greater interest in art itself rather
than religion. In addition, the lifestyle of the monks and the strict rules of religion clashed with his artistic personality and creative mentality.
At the age of 17, Zaya enrolled in the Soyol Fine Art College in Ulaanbaatar to study the traditional Mongolian fine arts. After finishing at the college, he continued his academic career and went on to study at the Institute of Fine Art at the Mongolian University of Culture and Art, which he graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree.
He had been a very active artist even when he was a student.
From 1999 to 2002, he successfully presented various solo exhibitions in the Art Union of Mongolia. The 2001 exhibition in German Embassy in Mongolia was highly rated by both the Mongolian artists and art critics. In 2003, Zaya was named the best young artist of Mongolia in the Art Show of Young Artists.
In the recent years, Zaya is working in the international community. He has conducted an art show in Brisbane, Australia in 2008, an exhibition in Niihama Ehime, Japan in 2009, and an exhibition in Camel K gallery, Matsuyama, Japan in 2009. Additionally, he has been a permanent artist at the Galerie Elektra in Sausalito, California ever since 2006.
Styles and Techniques
Zaya combines the Mongolian traditional painting with contemporary international, especially Asian, influenced art.
His unique method of using watercolors, gouache, brush, and mixed mediums on canvas allows him to illustrate the ancient traditions, customs, and heritage of the central Asian nomadic people. Although his works mainly consists of scenes of ancient daily life and exotic portraiture of nature, he connects the spirit of nomadic art with the Tibetan and Japanese traditional techniques of fine art.
By using different methods and studying various cultures, Zaya works to create his own genre that enables him to suggest a world of antiquity within a modern art.
His works, therefore, is neither too conformist nor too modern; rather it is a bridge between old and new art.
The simplicity of everyday life of nomads and their relationship to the wild nature is always the main subject matter of his works and they are depicted in his paintings with extraordinarily clear lines and textures, as well as visually strong, oftenwarm yet slight dark, colors.
The majority of his paintings contain female figures with wild beasts or animals like snow leopards, and wolves, which symbolizes the connection of beauty to nature. The female characters, in his paintings, appear to be very majestic and aristocratic that they often represent queens and princesses.
The images of their costumes and hair styles are carefully studied from the traditional fashions of nomadic aristocracy. His paintings are also inspired by the history of Mongolia.
The great legacy of his ancestors certainly influenced him personally; thus, a number of his paintings are motivated and derived from the historical events.
The horses are his specialty; the paintings such as, The Reflection, demonstrates his talent of drawing horses with certain characteristics.
Their eyes are very lively and humanlike hence creating a poetic and emotional scene. Zaya truly loves horses as every Mongolians does and he draws them with a great passion.
Indeed, horses have the greatest influence on Mongolian nomadic peoples’ lives that it has been one of the ultimate reasons for the success of Genghis Khan and other great conquerors’ military conquests.
It is certain that without horses, the lives of the nomadic people would have been extremely difficult, especially their military success would have been impossible; that even the ancient Chinese people recognized the nomadic peoples’ advantage of horses.
And in order to defend themselves by eliminating such advantage, they built one of the greatest constructions of the world, the Great Wall.
Because of the nomadic lifestyle with its constant migration from land to land, and never ending warfare, the art in general, especially the visual arts of nomadic people of Mongolia, have never being fully studied and it is unknown to the world. Nevertheless, the nomadic art is very rich and full of mysteries like a rich land which has not being discovered yet.
Thus Zaya is working to introduce it to the rest of the world.
THANKS ZAYA (Facebook)